I truly enjoy my time at Mid-America. From my perspective, it has been a perfect fit for me. I have the opportunity to go as hard as I want, and I don’t have pressure from anyone trying to make me someone I’m not. I feel very fortunate that this was my first gym. After all, I can only imagine if I had gone to a gym that wasn’t a good fit, it might have scared me away from jiu jitsu.
I have to assume that most, if not all, gyms have people telling you how good that gym is compared to others, or how what they do is different. When I used to go to Liftetime Fitness, I’d hear how much better it was than 24 hour fitness. Then when we switched to a local gym, I heard how much better it was than other gyms, etc. It’s not limited to BJJ schools, or even gyms really. It’s any organization that you’re in will have people telling you how and why they’re better than “competing” organizations.
Like I said above, this is the only BJJ school I’ve ever trained at. So I can’t tell you first hand that our classes are tougher, or better, or bigger, or more focused on the students, or anything else. But I can tell you one thing that our gym is great at, encouragement. It’s not something that I would have thought was important before I started BJJ, but now that I’m 6 months in, I’m beginning to see how important it is.
For the past 3 months I’ve been hitting the sparring class just about every week. Most weeks I’ve gone on Tuesday and Thursday nights. There’s been a couple nights that have had more than 3 or 4 whitebelts (one time we had 9, I think.) There have also been nights that I have been the only whitebelt. That can be hard, because it means that I tend to end up with a lot of matches against blue, a few against purple and the occasional brownbelt match. Going up against the higher belts the only way I’ve really found to measure progress is along the lines of “How long did it take for that guy to submit me? 45 seconds? Awesome, last time it was only 30 seconds.” And if somehow I’m able to go a full 5 minutes without an upper belt submitting me, I always wonder if my escapes were working, or were my opponent was just going easy, or even just working on something in particular (like staying heavy in mount.)
Over the past 2 or 3 weeks, I’ve had a couple people that I’ve worked with on multiple occassions tell me specific areas that they could see improvement on. It wasn’t a big deal for them to make a comment, and even at the time I wasn’t floored by it, but it ended up being pretty meaningful. It’s hard to tell if you’re improving, and how much you’re improving, at least for me. So to hear from someone who appears to know their stuff that they can see you getting better is a big deal.
Since BJJ only has 5 belts, you aren’t awarded with a new belt all the time. There are stripes, but even those aren’t something you get every 2 or 3 months (at least not that I’ve seen.) Encouragement plays a big role in this environment. It doesn’t have to be grandiose either. I’ve heard countless guys at the gym tell people things like “That was a really good triangle defense.” or “Your guard is getting really hard to pass.” Little things that can go a long way to helping people along the road.